Thousands of couples get married each year and begin their journey toward citizenship in the United States. For a lot of them, it’s the beginning of brand-new life in America. For others, getting a green card after marriage is another step on their path to citizenship.
Like a lot of people, you’re probably wondering how long your spouse’s immigration process will take. The entire process, from filling out the immigration paperwork to filing an immigrant visa application, to receiving a Green Card, will depend on your specific situation. Generally speaking, the immigration process typically takes longer for a spouse of a permanent resident than it does for a U.S. citizen.
How the USCIS Processes Cases
Both Green Card holders and U.S. citizens use Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative to help their spouse receive legal permanent residency. The range of time it takes the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to process your Form I-130 will depend on a couple of things:
- Your citizenship status — i.e., if you are a permanent resident (Green Card holder) filing for a spouse, or a U.S. citizen
- The field office or service center where you’re required to send it
Processing begins the moment the U.S. government receives your form. The period of time ranges listed below are updated by the USCIS monthly. Check with the USCIS for current Form I-130 processing times.
California Service Center
If your Form I-130 will be processed at the California Service Center, the estimated time range is:
- Permanent Resident Filing for a Spouse — 19.5 months to 25.5 months
- U.S. Citizen Filing for a Spouse — 19.5 months to 25.5 months
Nebraska Service Center
If your Form I-130 will be processed at the Nebraska Service Center, the estimated time range is:
- Permanent Resident Filing for a Spouse — 2.5 to 7 months
- U.S. Citizen Filing for a Spouse — 2 to 7 months
Potomac Service Center
If your Form I-130 will be processed at the Potomac Service Center, the estimated time range is:
- Permanent Resident Filing for a Spouse — 23 to 30 months
- U.S. Citizen Filing for a Spouse — 12.5 months to 16.5 months
Texas Service Center
If your Form I-130 will be processed at the Texas Service Center, the estimated time range is:
- Permanent Resident Filing for a Spouse — 1 week to 7 months
- U.S. Citizen Filing for a Spouse — 9 to 12 months
Vermont Service Center
If your Form I-130 will be processed at the Vermont Service Center, the estimated time range is:
- Permanent Resident Filing for a Spouse — 15 to 19 months
- U.S. Citizen Filing for a Spouse — 28 to 36 months
Applying for Your Spouse’s Green Card
The immigration process following a successful Petition for Alien Relative application, there are more steps to receiving a family-based Green Card for your spouse.
Though many of the steps are similar, the immigration process for spouses of permanent residents will take longer than for spouses of U.S. citizens.
Permanent Resident Filing for a Spouse
Once your USCIS I-130 forms are approved, your spouse will be entered onto an immigration visa waiting list. Your spouse’s original petition filing date becomes his or her visa priority date.
It can take about two years for a visa to become available and will depend on your spouse’s priority date. The waiting period will also vary based on your husband or wife’s home country. Check the State Department’s Visa Bulletin to get the current priority dates for that month.
As soon as your priority date becomes current, you can send in your visa application form to the U.S. Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC). It takes about three to five months for visa processing.
U.S. Citizen Filing for a Spouse
As soon as the USCIS approves your I-130 petitions, you can immediately apply for your immigrant visa petition through the NVC. Again, it typically takes three to five months for the NVC to process your spouse’s visa.
Permanent Resident or U.S. Citizen Filing for a Spouse
The NVC will then forward your husband or wife’s visa file to the consulate or embassy nearest to them. Processing here can take up to three months. The consulate or embassy may then schedule visa interviews.
On the interview date, your spouse will visit the U.S. consular or embassy and provide documentation for review and answer questions. After your spouse is approved, the consulate or embassy will issue an immigration visa, and he or she will have six months to travel to America.
Once they arrive, they will present their visa and documents at the port of entry and enter the U.S. to join you. Several weeks later, your spouse’s Green Card will arrive in the mail.
If you and your spouse have been married for under two years, their conditional resident Green Card will run out after two years. During the 90 days prior to the conditional card expiring, your spouse will need to file a Form-751 petition for a permanent Green Card.
Total Processing Time for a Spouse Green Card
As long as there are no delays or complicating factors:
- A spouse of a permanent resident’s immigration processing time is about 24 to 36 months on average from start to finish.
- A spouse of a U.S. citizen’s Green Card processing time today averages about 12-18 months.
This includes the total immigration process time, from the Form I-130 filing to the date when your spouse is in America and has their Green Card. When the time comes for your spouse to immigrate, you, as the petitioner, must consent to be his or her financial sponsor by filing Form I-864. This makes clear your financial support commitment to your immigrating spouse.
FileRight Will Ensure Accurate Spouse Immigration Forms
Remember that these time ranges are estimates, and your waiting time could be completely different depending on your case or changes in procedures and policies in the immigration method. This might include previous immigration issues that involve you or your spouse or missing or incorrect information on any of your forms.
Avoid these issues and help make the process of bringing your spouse to America as smooth as possible with FileRight on your side. Take our qualification quiz to get started on your I-130 Green Card application today!